Israel: No More Confusing Than America
As usual, Tom Friedman has it exactly right in The New York Times on April 7.
Israel and America are two nations “that gave birth to themselves in the name of self-proclaimed ideas,” according to author Dov Seidman. The countries are based on their peoples embracing shared systems of values. Right now, neither of these prominent democracies is driven by a shared ethos despite the leadership of both nations claiming that there are common principles underpinning the nations.
Here are the four principles that Friedman claims are challenging both nations and the cohesion of their citizens.
The external threats to the existence of each are gone. There is no more Cold War and the Palestinians are barely an issue any more for anyone.
The societies in each country are linked by social networks that further tribalism and separation.
In Trump and Netanyahu, both countries had charismatic populists appealing to the basest instincts of significant minorities of the population creating schisms that seem unhealable.
Finally, demographics are changing—fast. Whites will be in the minority in America by 2045 and half of Israel’s children are getting sub-standard educations because of the poor quality of teaching in the growing Orthodox community and the inferior plight of Israeli Arabs and Israelis living in the outlying areas of Israel. Many of the Haredi men do not work or serve in the military and their kids do not get mainstream educations that might allow them to become productive adults.
The start of the solution in the United States was the election of Joe Biden. He is not a charismatic populist nor a dogmatic liberal. So far he is trying to do what he thinks America needs. It’s a start.
Israel will need to do the same with Netanyahu as America did with Trump. To do so, as Friedman points out, will necessitate the confluence of all of the parties aligned against Bibi into a coalition that does not support the hold the Ultra-Orthodox have on the country and its prime minister.
Both countries are currently fractured. Neither has people pulling in a common direction. It is more obvious in Israel because of the nature of a parliamentary system and the fact that there have now been four elections in two years without a real winner. Bibi is the problem. Get him off the ballot and I believe Israel could coalesce around some new talent. This is unlikely to occur as Bibi won’t step aside and he’s years away from a conviction that would drive him out of office. He will get the first crack at forming yet another coalition government.
We are still very divided in America as well. Despite most Americans supporting the Biden Covid Relief Bill, no Republican congressional representatives voted for it in either house of Congress. We may have a representative government but that government surely does not represent the desire of the people. Those people also back an infrastructure bill and the members of Congress need to find a way to get it done. Of course, it would help if Mr. Biden would limit his proposals to infrastructure.
The world cannot survive in a peaceful state without strong and functional governments in Washington and in Jerusalem. Right now neither is the case. We may be starting to dig out in Washington. Jerusalem still has a long way to go.